IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 7th January, 2016
TOPIC: General studies 2
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
West Asia: Saudi Arabia’s deadly gamble
The execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an influential Shia cleric, by Saudi Arabia has expectedly led to a flare-up of sectarian passions in West Asia.
What is the issue?
Saudi Arabia recently executed 47 people for terrorism offences in one day, including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Sheikh Nimr was the most prominent religious leader of the Kingdom’s Shia minority, which has long been subjected to institutionalised segregation by the Sunni monarchy of the al-Saud family which is ruling Saudi Arabia.
He was the driving force behind the 2011 protests in the country’s east, inspired by Arab Spring protests elsewhere. Moreover, Sheikh Nimr was a respected cleric among the Shia community in general.
Iran had repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia to pardon him.
A provocative move by Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, perhaps the most influential leader among the Kingdom’s Shia minority, was clearly a provocative move.
Riyadh knew that its action would deteriorate relations with Iran and inflame sectarian tensions in West Asia at a time when the Islamic State is systematically persecuting Shias and other minorities within Islam.
Iran, a Shia-majority country and a regional rival of Saudi Arabia, had repeatedly requested the Sunni monarchy to pardon Nimr, who was the driving force behind the Arab Spring model protests in the kingdom’s east in 2011.
By executing him, along with 46 others on Saturday, Riyadh has plunged the region, already reeling under terrorism, insurgency and sectarianism, into more chaos.
Why did Suadi Arabia do this?
Why did Riyadh do this if they knew the consequences would be deadly?
A logical explanation is that it’s part of a well-thought-out strategy to whip up tensions so that the Al-Saud ruling family could tighten its grip on power at home and its position in the region by amassing the support of the Sunni regimes.
Whether the royals agree or not, Saudi Arabia is facing a major crisis.
Oil prices are decreasing and endangering the kingdom’s economy.
In 2015, it ran a deficit of $97.9 billion, and has announced plans to shrink its budget for the current year by $86 billion.
This is likely to impact the government’s public spending, and could trigger resentment.
The entire kingdom relies heavily on the government’s welfare policies, besides its religious appeal, to drum up public support.
The late King Abdullah’s response to Arab Spring protests is an example of this.
When people elsewhere rose up against dictatorships, he announced a special economic package of $70 billion (much of this money was allocated to build 5,00,000 houses to address housing shortage) to check discontent at home. Additionally, the state injected $4 billion into healthcare.
King Salman does not enjoy the luxury of using oil revenues to save his crown due to the economic crisis.
Another option the royals have to buttress their position is to resort to extreme majoritarianism.
At least four, including Sheikh Nimr, among the 47 executed on January 2 were political prisoners.
By putting them to death, the royal family has sent a clear message to political dissidents at home.
This is a tactic dictators have often used in history.
They go back to extremism or sectarianism to bolster their hard-line constituency to tide over the economic and social difficulties.
The real aim of the monarchy is to close down every window of dissidence; if that can’t be done through economic development and welfarism, do it by other means.
West Asia is already witnessing sectarian conflicts
Iraq, which is torn apart on sectarian lines, is taking baby steps under the new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, to rebuild national unity.
The country witnessed a bloody phase of sectarian strife in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion.
Parts of the country, including the second largest city, Mosul, are still under the control of Islamic State, which is carrying out a systematic campaign against non-Sunni religious groups.
In Yemen, the Shia Houthi rebels are fighting forces loyal to a Saudi-protected government led by Sunnis.
In Bahrain, the wounds of a Shia rebellion which was crushed by a Sunni monarch with the help of the Saudis are still not healed.
By executing Sheikh Nimr, Riyadh has poured oil into this sectarian fire, for which the region will have to pay a huge price.
Cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran:
For decades, one of the main sources of instability in West Asia has been the cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Though the ultimate goal of both nations has been regional supremacy, they use sectarianism as a vehicle to maximise their interests.
While Riyadh has the support of Sunni monarchs and dictators in the Arab world, Iran is aligned with Iraq and Syria, besides its proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.
This sets the stage for a dangerous Shia-Sunni conflict across the region.
Unless tensions are dialled down between these two heavyweights, there will not be peace in West Asia.
Both the U.S. and Russia, allies of Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, have called for calm but have failed to promote peace in the region.
Unchecked, the Saudi-Iran rivalry could plunge the region, already torn apart by invasions, civil wars and terrorism, into further chaos.
One natural victim of these rising tensions will be the Syria peace plan.
President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and a coalition of rebels are supposed to begin peace talks this month, according to a road map agreed in the UN Security Council a few weeks ago.
Iranian and Saudi cooperation is a must for peace in Syria, where the ongoing civil war has killed more than 2,50,000 people. The Saudis back anti-regime rebels and extremists in Syria, while the Iranians support the Assad government.
Worse, it’s not just Syria.
Unless Saudi-Iran tensions are contained, there won’t be an effective strategy to fight the Islamic State, which is a Sunni-Wahhabi extremist group; the war in Yemen will go on, endangering many more lives; and Iraq’s efforts to stabilise itself could be challenged.
The Saudis look determined to play a long-term game of sectarian geopolitics to maximise its interests. If the Iranians continue to respond in the same token, West Asia would remain turbulent for many more years.
Connecting the dots:
Explain the ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran in West Asia. What will be the impact of this conflict on India? Substantiate
A peaceful West Asia is a necessity for India to maintain its energy security. Critically examine the above statement wrt the ongoing conflicts in West Asia.
TOPIC: General studies 2
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies; Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation; Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
Censor and sensibility : Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)
Let us understand the issue first-
Revamping Censor Board (Information)
Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry has constituted a committee
To be headed by: Shyam Benegal
Suggest measures to help Board members understand the nuances of film certification
Recommend broad guidelines and procedures under the Cinematograph Act
Look into the CBFCs Staffing pattern to recommend a framework for efficient, transparent and user-friendly services
Central Board of Film Certification
Also known as Censor Board, it’s a statutory censorship and classification body under the I&B Ministry
Regulates the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952
Assigns certifications to films, television shows, ads, publications for exhibition, sales, etc
There has come up again, a need for the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) to set up a panel to examine the rules of certification— Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC); and the question thus remains- What can possibly be the reason behind setting up a committee under the chair of eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal when the ground rules of certification can be better decided by the fraternity themselves
Certification or Censorship—
The moral policing rests on the shoulders of every member of the examining committee, taking his or her job of protecting viewers from anything obscene, or anything likely to offend any community, very seriously and this drives the members to order cuts in films certified even for adult viewing
Politics takes precedence: Most of them are political appointees (sitting on the positions as a favour) by political masters and thus, the room devoted for artistic expression stifles and dies in the chaos of a political set-up.
Committees examining problems and issues confronting certification of films:
1969: The Khosla Committee report had written about the necessity of doing away with the hegemony of the Centre over the Censor Board
The Advisory Panel
A film’s first screening is seen by a group of six people out of a 250-member team called the Advisory Panel
One of the officers of the CBFC—either the CEO or the regional officer—presides over the meeting
Advisory Panel is comprised of 250 people from various professions — lawyers, teachers, doctors, among others — who watch the film and suggest changes and out of those 250, six people, selected in turns, decide the initial fate of the film
66% of the people from the Advisory Panel should be based on the recommendation of the CBFC’s chairperson and board members; which is most of the time not followed considering the whims of the government
If the filmmaker isn’t satisfied with their decision he can apply to the Revising Committee, which comprises of nine members, eight from the Advisory Panel, and chaired by the CBFC board member
Case Study- UGLY
Anurag Kashyap’s last film, Ugly, ran into trouble with the censor board when he refused to run an anti-smoking disclaimer
But what about the following:
Clearance- Cleared the film without asking for cuts but…
But: They just wanted to put the anti-smoking disclaimer, which was not accepted by Kashyap as there was a very crucial scene in the film, where a character is not even smoking but is just holding a cigarette, killing the whole purpose of the film
Step taken by Kashyap:
Filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, stating these objections violate his fundamental rights under:
Article 19 (right to speech and expression) and
Article 21 (right to life)
Challenged the decision of the Advisory Committee and it went to the Revising Committee but dissatisfied by the Revision Committee’s decision, Kashyap challenged it in High Court, but lost the case, which now lies before the Supreme Court
“The Revising Committee is still reasonable; you can argue, discuss, present your point of view, and they will listen. But among the advisory committee, there’s not a single person who’s ready to take a stand. They are just so scared of losing their jobs. The purpose of the censor committee should be to stand up and say, ‘This is fine, and people must watch this.’ If by chance you get the most scared lot in the principal committee, who are only there so that they can get their money per screening, then you have had it. Because they just follow the book. They don’t argue; they don’t even understand. Their only argument is ‘But this is what they say’,”
Creativity gets hampered- The significance of an artistic expression meeting a web of unsettling questions oscillates between rejection and acceptance, turning one’s voice mute; often affecting the psyche of the film-maker
Courtesy: Case Study of Ugly (ww.sunday-guardian.com/artbeat/censor-a-sensibility)
There is a need for a shared understanding between the government and the committee, paving way for the autonomous working of the CBFC so that they can take decisions on their own.
The composition of the committee should comprise of people who understand the true power and implications of cinema and of those who do not have biases, prejudices or bring their own moralities.
The triangular relationship between the audience, filmmaker, and the censor board needs to be nurtured and the CBFC should stand up and make itself heard or at least have a say in creating the Advisory Panel
Connecting the Dots:
Discuss the political dampening of the artistic democracy in India. Can it be curbed?